How did your Christmas go?
Mine was relatively smooth sailing. Some hiccups. My hubby is still recovering from an operation, so was in some pain, my niece hurt herself in the swimming pool, Mum couldn’t hear us because her hearing aids don’t like crowds, and (as usual) I ate too much. But we had great fun and lots and lots of presents.
There are two responses I regularly get when I tell people that I am the youngest of nine children. The first usually is “Your poor mother!” I find this amusing. Why is my mother pitied, but not my father? Or are we talking about child birth here? I know a lady who has three children and hasn’t experienced more than three hours of labour collectively for them. She has short, swift labours. I had one labour – it was 55 hours long.
The other response I get to the nine children revelation, is “Wow, Christmases must’ve been big in your family.”
I smile and nod. They definitely were. When I was younger I didn’t realise how big they were, because they were just normal to me. I was born into a family that already had eight children. It’s only as I’ve grown and experienced quieter Christmases that I realise how big they actually were. I didn’t have much to do with the planning of Christmas when I was young, but by the time I hit my teens, my sisters and brothers were having their own children. Mum and I were always instrumental in working through the logistics of the day. One of the big things was how to keep the presents straight.
Imagine ten kids ripping the paper off their presents and going “oh, wow” and then throwing the toy aside for the next present. After 15 minutes we would have no idea which present belongs to who. So every year Mum and I would create something for the grandkids to put their present in. One year we covered cardboard boxes in coloured paper, then spent a few days cutting out pictures from magazines to decorate them. Each box had pictures to individually represent the child. One year we cut out fabric to make the letters of their names and sewed it on large hessian bags. The item was presented to the kids at the beginning of the present opening, and as each present was revealed, they could be put away in the box/bag.
One side-effect of having nine children, is that you tend to have more grandchildren than the norm. We’re at twenty-three now, and I think we may be done. (Who knows? There are still some of us in our child-bearing years. And my brother’s youngest son was born when he was fifty-one.) Their ages range from under one, up to thirty-four. And don’t forget we have the great-grandkids now (current count: eight-and-a-half). And six step-grandkids.
One thing that amuses me, is the amount of people who say to my mother, “Oh, how wonderful to have so many grandchildren. I wish I had that many grandkids, but my kids haven’t really bothered.”
My mother will say, “It’s great. So how many kids do you have?”
“Oh, we only have the two children, and four grandkids.”
It’s like people fail at maths when they have to count the number of children versus the number of grandchildren. If you only had two children, then don’t you think it’s a little bit of a stretch to ask for twenty-odd grandchildren? And if you only had two children, and your children only had two children, aren’t they following your example?
The same goes for life. Of course there are some incredibly lucky people out there, but for most of it, money, fame, happiness and health come down to the effort you put into it.
Many people compliment me on my garden. They visit and look around saying, “Wow, I wish I had this garden. It’s beautiful.” I’m bias, I think my garden is wonderful. There is so much more I would love to do with it if I had the time, but for now, yes, it’s good enough. I then visit their house and look around their garden. I can see the building blocks to a lovely garden, but like everything, it takes time and money. I walk past the waist-high weeds, the broken reticulation, the brown lawn, the dead rose bushes and the unpruned trees, and visit for coffee. Usually we will end up talking about their life and they tell me about the shows they watched, the clothes they made, or the job they have. And there you have it: I have a stack of sewing patterns and material I would love to make, I haven’t watched TV for years, and I don’t have a job (other than little stories). What I put into my life, is what I get out of it. I can’t chat with people about the latest episode of The Walking Dead or the latest blockbuster movie. I’m usually out in my garden or in my writing room and miss the shows.
It is the same for authors. My jealous eyes often check out the authors who make the top ten on Amazon, or who are doing amazing things in promotions, but I know that the effort that goes into it is reflected in the sales they get. If you want to be successful in authoring, there are a number of things you need to do. Number One on the list, is write a good story that people want to read.
A number of months back I read a story, that was… well… bad. Admittedly I am a lot pickier than your average reader, and since writing my own books, I’ve learned the power of a good editor. This book needed a good editor, and I think it only got mediocre, and definitely no proofreader had sighted the words before they were published. It had been edited, yes, but sometimes there is only so much an editor can do with poor storytelling, because it is a sad fact of life that not every person can craft an interesting tale. Even the timeline couldn’t be kept straight. And then there were elements of the story that I just wasn’t comfortable with. In my opinion, the character acted immorally, taking advantage of a situation when MC2 had no other option. Coupled with that was the fact that I didn’t get MC2’s attraction to MC1, MC1’s focus and attraction to MC2 was icky, and the two characters did odd things at weird times.
I know I sound overly critical. I’m terrible. Usually I can look past mediocre editing and focus on the brilliant story. Or I can push aside the parts of a story that don’t sit right, because I’m enthralled in the tale. But this book? Nothing worked for me. It has been the only book I felt like “returning” to Amazon, because I felt I was cheated out of my money to pay for such rubbish. (But I didn’t). Which is why I was completely confused about the success of the book – both in sales and reviews. I bought it because others were, so I considered it a good choice. The reviews seemed to be good too. I wondered why this book did well, when other (IMO frankly brilliant authors) can’t get a break.
In the months since reading, I’ve seen this author around. Facebook and Goodreads is a rather small community, and you can’t but help run into people. Someone mentioned to me that they’d seen this author say they made a loss financially on the publication. I began paying closer attention. The author has been paying heavily for advertising on sites, and has been begging and borrowing reviews in every corner. How much, and where, I’m not sure. I’m just hearing rumours. And it shows. The story inside may be unexceptional, but the effort the author has put into promotion has given them success. So Number Two in how to write a successful story, has nothing to do with Number One, and has everything to do with the effort put in after.
So although I couldn’t enjoy the story, and the problems with the story leaves a sour taste in my mouth months later, I learned something from it. To be successful, the effort comes before and after the release of the book. Just like in gardening, a successful garden requires planning and planting before, and careful tending and watering after. In terms of promotion, the weeds around my own books are waist high. I need to pay better attention.
So, **dusting off my promo hat** I’m here to brag. I recently read a “how to promote your book” book and one of the first things it said, is if you can’t shout out proudly to everyone about your work, how do expect anyone else to?
Last year, my books did exceedingly well during the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Reader’s Choice awards. I was the immensely proud mumma of my books. This year I’ve been nominated for a few more awards. Even the nominations make me damn proud. I don’t think I will progress further than the nomination round, as there are so many wonderful authors, wonderful books, (and let’s not forget the wonderful promoters) out there. But I’m here to brag anyway.
So the polling opens in January – don’t forget to go and vote.
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